During March the Irish Raptor Study Group and Golden Eagle Trust Ltd organised a series of workshops to meet the fieldworkers involved in the National Survey. Six workshops were run at various locations across Ireland to allow as many people as possible to attend. Workshops took place in the Charleville Park Hotel, Co. Cork, the Hodson Bay Hotel Athlone, Co. Westmeath, the Mill Park Hotel, Co. Donegal and the Wicklow Mountains National Park offices, Co. Wicklow.
The primary aim of the workshops was to meet the survey participants and provide a series of talks on hen harrier ecology, the survey methods and requirements. Each workshop culminated in the surveyors volunteering for the survey selecting survey squares for monitoring during the National Survey. This provided a great opportunity for surveyors to meet each other and for the survey co-ordinators to meet everyone involved.
The workshops began with an introduction to hen harrier ecology which covered ageing and sexing, habitats to survey and ecological points that were relevant to the survey such as ranging behaviour. Talks focussed on interpreting hen harrier behaviour to assist surveyors in identifying suitable areas for nesting identify territory and/or nest locations and what to expect during fieldwork when trying to locate hen harrier territories and nests.
Disturbance, legislation and health and safety issues were also covered and importantly allowed an opportunity for explaining the justification and importance of the National Survey for hen harriers. The hen harrier is protected by the EU Birds Directive and listed on Annex 1 and as such monitoring, research and protected areas are a vital component for the conservation of the species. In addition, survey and monitoring data collected during national surveys are vitally important as these data are used by the government and other agencies to help inform management and conservation decisions.
The fieldworkers were also encouraged to record additional information such as details of any other raptors seen, wing-tags details for hen harriers and collect prey remains when these were encountered during the survey. Survey materials, such as maps and recording forms were all provided at the workshops and were then sent out electronically to all survey participants.
The Donegal workshop in particular proved to be quite an adventure with huge snowfall occurring the preceding day ? thanks to all of you who braved the snow to make the workshop. My 16 year old Landrover Discovery proved what terrain they are capable of going through/over/around when we trusted the sat-nav for the ?shortest route? to the workshop ended up taking 5½ hours travelling through the middle of the Sperrin Mountains through deep snow-drifts to get to Donegal the night before the workshop. We had a Golden Eagle Trust meeting in Glenveagh after the workshop and Brendan Dunlop and I had a chance to get out and help check a one of the golden eagle territories after the workshop and were rewarded after a snow trek (and a snow-ball fight!) in the Donegal Mountains with a distant sighting of an eagle. Unfortunately the Landrover only made it three quarters of the way home and the rest on the back of an AA truck and had to be retired for the rest of the season!
Thanks to everyone for their participation and involvement in the workshops and particularly to the hotels for providing such great hospitality, scones, jam and cream. Particular thanks also go to hen harrier researchers Barry O?Donoghue and Mark Wilson for providing additional talks on Irish hen harrier ecology and the on-going hen harrier research at UCC (University College Cork).